The pneumococcal vaccine, also known as the pneumo jab or pneumonia vaccine, protects against serious (including brain damaging) and potentially fatal infections. These are caused by bacteria which can lead from mild conditions such as ear and sinus infections, to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis (pneumococcal infections are one of the most common causes of the latter two). Studies have shown that the vaccine can provide some protection against ‘invasive’ diseases – this is where germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs; these types of diseases are usually very serious and can sometimes result in death.
Whilst pneumococcal infections can affect anyone, some people are at a higher risk of serious illness if they were to contract one of these. Therefore, these people are eligible for a pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS. The four ‘high risk’ groups are:
- Babies – this group will receive the vaccination as part of the childhood vaccination programme.
- People aged 65 and over
- People with long term health conditions, which are: those who have had their spleen removed / whose spleen does not work properly / who are at risk of their spleen not working properly in future; a long term respiratory disease (e.g. COPD); heart disease; CKD; chronic liver disease; diabetes; immunosuppression / immunodeficiency; fitted with a cochlear implant; those with cerebrospinal fluid leaking from its usual position
- People with an occupational risk (e.g. those who work with the metal fumes, such as welders)
Babies will receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – this protects against the 13 strains of the bacteria that most commonly cause infections (more than 90 strains have been identified, although only eight to ten cause the most serious infections). All the other ‘at-risk’ groups will be given the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine which protects against 23 strains. Both of these vaccines are inactivated which means they can’t cause the disease which they protect against (i.e. you can’t catch a pneumococcal infection from the vaccine as it doesn’t contain any live bacteria). If you or your child has had a bad reaction to any vaccination in the past, please speak to a GP who can advise whether it is still appropriate for you to be vaccinated. Similarly, if you are seriously ill, it is best to delay having the vaccination until you have made a full recovery.
The vaccine is thought to be around 50 to 70% effective at preventing pneumococcal infections.
Those at increased risk of infection will be given the vaccine once and this will provide lifetime protection. However, if your spleen does not work properly or if you have CKD, you may require a booster every five years because your levels of antibodies (proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins – they protect you from becoming ill if you’re infected with the bacteria) against the infection decrease over time.
The vaccine is very safe and has been given to millions of people worldwide. It meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and is tested by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). However, as with most vaccines, there can be some mild side effects such as a mild fever and redness / hardness / swelling at the site of the injection. Further information on side effects can be found through the Pneumococcal vaccine side effects page on the NHS website.
More information on the Pneumococcal vaccination can be found on the Pneumococcal vaccine page on the NHS website.
The Pneumococcal vaccination can be administered by our Healthcare Assistant, Assistant Practitioner or one of our Practice Nurses in a routine, ten minute appointment. More information on making an appointment can be found on the Appointments page of our website.